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Law must address Liability and end socialised risk

GE Free New Zealand
In Food And Environment Inc. PO Box 693, Nelson

PRESS RELEASE 12 February 2003

Biotech Laws must address Liability and end "socialised risk"

New legislation proposed to control GM products and push New Zealand towards commercial release must first and foremost make companies promoting GE fully liable for damage to our environment , public health and New Zealand's marketing image.

The government's amendments to the HSNO Act being announced today will be unacceptable to the New Zealand public unless there is an end to " socialising" the risks from GE experiments driven by private profit interests.

" It is a false subsidy by the public for the biotech industry, and as such is allowing uninsurable risks to be taken with GMO's. It is no longer ethical or scientifically defensible to claim ERMA will "manage the risk" says Jon Carapiet , spokesperson for GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

The government, whilst claiming it supports a choice of GE Free in agriculture and crops, will by allowing GM releases to "co-exist" with traditional agriculture make redundant any other legal changes to ensure the preservation of our GE-Free opportunity.

"It is possible the legislation is already out of date. Unless the government has taken note of recent international news, including the British Medical Association calling for GM field trials to be stopped, the laws may reflect 'old' science as they have tended to before." says Mr Carapiet.

In November the BMA representing 120 000 UK doctors told the Scottish parliament that GM field trials should end in order to protect public health.
In December the UK government also released a report by DEFRA showing uncontrollable contamination spreading from their GM field trials.

Swiss Farmers have also announced they will be demanding a 5-year moratorium on GM release just when New Zealand's moratorium is under threat.
Even more recently McDonalds in the UK announced they are moving to organic milk products .

" This is happening while our Field trials continue and full commercial releases are being pushed. AgResearch scientists are promoting cheap GE cheese from cloned cows when the global market is rejecting it. The government are going in the wrong direction" says Mr Carapiet.

GE Free NZ in Food and Environment believe there is a middle path for ethical biotechnology in New Zealand,(see below), and the government should listen.

Contact Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

A Vision for regulation of Biotechnology in the Public Interest

( taken from a joint submission to government from a coalition of Civil Society organisations)
· The submission acknowledges the government's decision that " New Zealand proceed carefully and implement GM selectively and cautiously". However commercial release of GMO's into the environment is not a requirement for this policy which can be equally achieved through contained applications that meet community values and ethical standards
· There is no consent for the government to proceed with "conditional release" of GM organisms.
· The majority oppose a national biotechnology policy based on releasing GM organisms.
· Strict liability for damage must rest with those using this uniquely powerful technology
· New Zealand is to be best served by applying GM technology ethically in containment.
· It is vital that the ongoing regulatory process integrates issues of ethics and culture in a meaningful way, including a legislated role for the Bio Ethics Council..
· Human cloning must be banned.
· The concept of conditional release is unacceptable. It unacceptable to formulate regulations for such a process when they are known to be ineffective.
· The most "cost effective and practicable (achieve the purpose at the least cost)" approach is PREVENTION of contamination by approving only contained applications for GM organisms.
· Full liability, even for 'unforeseen' damage is a reasonable and moderating mechanism to achieve a high level of compliance for controlling GMO's in all situations..
· The intention of liability rules is to encourage compliance and therefore prevent or limit the need for compensation..
· Costs of compensation and remedial action must be carried by the user of the GMO who caused the harm. This is a regulatory tool to ensure reasonable standards of caution in commercial GM speculation.
· Prions should be included in the HSNO definition of organisms as this will allow them to be considered at the same level of assessment for risk as other replicable organisms and life-components.

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